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Library leaders have laid out their five-year plan to upgrade technology education, boost outreach

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY JANE SCHEPPKE
 - Children's Services Librarian Jennifer Fischer leads Wednesday morning Family Storytime with a story about the color green.

The Crook County Library has laid out its new five-year strategic plan, recently approved by the Crook County Court and Library Board of Trustees.

The overarching goals include more technology education, increased outreach throughout the county and more accessible library space and services. The goals will help the library staff focus their time and resources to bring them current through 2024.

Director of Library Services Buzzy Nielsen commented that the last strategic plan was much more specific in many areas, enough so that many of the goals became out-of-date very quickly.

"It's also a little bit different in that at the time the last one was written, we had a lot more things to work on internally, and now we feel like we are trying to work on a lot more things in reaching out to people," Nielsen explained.

Assistant Director of the Library Services Jane Scheppke added that there has been a cultural shift that has taken place between the last strategic plan and the current strategic plan.

"Just in terms of how we see ourselves and our role in the community, we're definitely a more outreached focus, more kind of "big tent" environment, whereas before it was a little bit more traditional," said Scheppke.

The new plan was a result of a year-long process, investigating what the Crook County residents want to see in their library. Nielsen said that they did a lot of focus groups from stakeholders who were already connected to the library. He said these included the Library Board of Trustees, Crook County Commissioners, Friends of the Library, as well as individual interviews or focus groups of other organizations. These included the city of Prineville mayor, city manager, the Latino Community Association and the Faith-based Network.

Nielsen added that they also had data from a community survey from 2016, as well as information from feedback from community members that had been submitted. He said they are planning on doing some surveys soon as part of the process to access where they are at initially, at the middle and an assessment at the end of the five-year process.

The feedback received to date fell into five broad goals: reaching out to historically underserved populations; making the library building and digital spaces more inviting; providing better access for people with disabilities; offering more education opportunities for adults in the community; and helping youth in Crook County to succeed and thrive.

The library staff has planned several specific initiatives to achieve the goals laid out in their strategic plan. One of the most specific goals involves physical spaces that are not as accessible as they should be.

"We have a lot of physical spaces that are not that accessible to people with disabilities," pointed out Nielsen. "We have some fixed countertops that are not good heights, and then just in general, even the ones that might be ADA accessible height, you can't adjust it."

He indicated they have plans to remove some of the fixed countertops and replace them with adjustable-height shelves. They will also plan to renovate the computer lab, including adding computers and technology that has assistive software. This will result in workstations being more accessible to individuals in wheelchairs and who have mobility issues. Screen readers, speech input and other technology will also be available on library workstations. The changes will also provide more access to homebound individuals so they can access some library services remotely.

Another common need that was identified was the need for more technology education. The library will be offering some computer classes that offer basic computer skills. Included is a weekly Drop-in Tech Help program, where participants can bring their own technology but can also use the library technology and still participate. The classes will be offered on Wednesdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m., beginning Nov. 13.

Scheppke commented that they often have library visitors come in to access important computer tasks, such as filling out an online application or signing up for services, without basic computer knowledge. The classes will be a great help in providing computer literacy skills.

Another initiative includes expanding the services of the Crook County Library by increasing participation in the national Dolly Parton Imagination Reading Program. The program is run through the High Desert Education Services District.

"Her father was illiterate, so she has in her foundation as one of its primary goals to increase literacy among young children," said Nielsen.

He pointed out that there is a lot of research that shows that the time to start literacy skills is the day they are born or as young as possible. The Dolly Parton Imagination Reading Program includes having every child in the community between birth and 5 years of age receive a free book mailed to them once per month until they are 5 years of age.

"They are very carefully-selected books. They are a mix of subjects, a mix of authors, and a mix of backgrounds. As they child ages the books get more complicated," he added.

The strategic plan also includes offering fun and safe activities throughout the year for youth ages 6 to 18 years of age. This will include access to more events and services both in and outside of the library.

The library's new projects come amid a historic milestone. The library's current building on Meadow Lakes Drive turned 20 in October 2019. Several of the initiatives in the new strategic plan will help ensure that the building remains vibrant and continues to meet Crook County's needs well into the future.

"I think that the building was built with a lot of foresight," emphasized Nielsen.


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